Drink and Lunacy

Medical Pioneer, The (1897) Drink and Lunacy. [Image]

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This 1897 article from the Medical Pioneer shows concern not only about the contributory factor of drink to ‘lunacy,’ but also that it was being given to mental patients as a reward or a treatment.


THE Medical Pioneer,
OCTOBER, 1897.


THE account of the eight annual report of the Asylums Committee, which we publish in another column, may well give food for reflection. It confirms that the already well-established point that at least 15 per cent. of all cases of insanity are due directly to drink (this report gives 17 per cent.) and it has been shown that about as many are due to the same cause indirectly. The total number in the County of London is now close on 20,000, and hence the drink-customs are responsible for at least 6,000. How many more are brought to the verge of insanity, through alcoholic poisoning of the brain, we can only imagine, but the havoc wrought is evidently frightful. Instability of mind and morals is the inevitable result of this accursed traffic. This wholesale demoralisation continues only because men will not remove the cause. Everyone blames his neighbour, while refusing to abstain from the drink himself. But in the face of the irresistible evidence of the potent influence of alcohol in causing insanity it is almost incredible and, we might say, criminal, that in these asylums such liquors are still sued, specially in the cases under medical treatment. While in most of the asylums beer is no longer to be found the ordinary dietary, we believe that in Colney Hatch and Hanwell Asylums is it still given to large numbers who are not in the infirmary, and even offered to patients as a reward for special work ! We know of one case in which a lad who is a life abstainer was ordered beer, and this was pressed on him urgently by the doctor, notwithstanding his protest. He stood his ground, however, and recovered without, showing himself in this respect more sane than the doctor. It is abominable that the efforts put forth to promote the sobriety and mental health of the people should be thus counteracted in the institutions established for the relief and cure of those who succumb to outside temptations or other causes of insanity. The figures show that the amount of alcohol per head used in these asylums varies very much. The weekly cost per head is six times as great in Colney Hatch, and three times in Hanwell, as in Banstead, Cane Hill, and Claybury. There can be no good reason for this. If these three large asylums, containing 7,945 inmates, can treat them successfully at a cost of £468 for alcoholics, why do Colney Hatch and Hanwell need £1,041 for 5,096 patients? The medical staff ought to be called on to explain this anomaly, and, if no good reason can be given, the least they can do is to see that they reduce the amount to the same proportion. It would be far better if they would give a year’s trial to a strictly non-alcoholic régime.

DR. BOYCE, of Blackrock, Co. Dublin, has found it necessary to resign the office of Honorary Secretary of the Irish (Central) Branch, which he has filled very ably for a period of six years. The Council, in regretfully accepting his resignation, passed a warm vote of thanks to him for his valuable services. Dr. Bradley, of Drogheda, was unanimously invited to fill the vacant post, and has consented to do so. We hope to present a portrait and sketch of Dr. Bradley’s career in our next issue.


£ s. d.
Amount previously acknowledged … 62 9 6
Dr. Helen M. Wilson, Sheffield … … 1 0 0
Dr. Walters, Stonehouse, Gloucester … 5 5 0
T. Forsyth, Jun., Esq., Glasgow … … 1 7 6
Surgeon-Major Poole, Norwood … … 3 0 0
Wyatt Smith, Esq., Leyton … … 2 1 6
W. F. Hazel, Esq. … … … … 1 1 0
___ ___
£76 4 6
The number of subscribers to this fund being at present so small, the Council feel that further time should be afforded, and hope that the above amount will be much increased.


THE London Grand Division of the Sons of Temperance celebrated its 30th anniversary at Oxford recently. It has now 7,957 adult members, £62,000 accumulated funds and an income of £12,000 a year. During the past year 1,319 members had 37,913 day’s sickness, an average of 6.03 days per member. The deaths in the year were 39, showing a death-rate of 5.14 per 1,000. The recent valuation shows a large surplus which has steadily increased with each valuation, and according to the valuer “the causes of the improvement rate are, undoubtedly, the favourable morality and sickness experience, the profitable investment of the surplus funds and gain from cecessions.” This report is exactly consistent with the experience of similar temperance benefit societies and amply proves (if any further proof were needed) that by total abstinence from alcohol men escape a prolific cause of disease and death.

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